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Stratford’s Breanna Ackley returns to the Tigers this season after earning second-team all-conference honors in 2018-19. (Photo by Paul Lecker/For Zaleski Sports)

By Paul Lecker For Zaleski Sports

STRATFORD – The Stratford girls basketball team came one win short of a Marawood Conference South Division championship last season and has high hopes again heading into the 2019-20 campaign.

Stratford will open its season Tuesday, Nov. 26, at Wausau Newman Catholic in a big early-season Marawood Conference South Division matchup. Newman finished one game ahead of the Tigers last year in the conference standings as Stratford finished 14-2 (16-6 overall).

The Tigers’ original season opener, scheduled for Nov. 21, was postponed due to both schools’ football teams playing in the state finals that day.

Stratford looks to be in the mix again for a conference title, although it is a work in progress.

“We have a lot of new people in new positions, and new kids playing together for the first time,” Stratford coach Tammie Christopherson said. “It will be an interesting opening game, but get them early and see what you’re made of. I’ve always believed in that and we’ll see what happens.

“We have work to do. We have positions that have question marks on them yet and we have to develop some of the younger talent and keep bringing them along as a supporting cast, but we definitely have the ability to do that.”

The Tigers return three seniors and have seven juniors on the roster, including last year’s top scorer Breanna Ackley.

The 6-foot-1 Ackley scored 10.4 points per game and shot percent from the free throw line last season as a sophomore, earning second-team all-Marawood South honors. She finished with a team-high 26 3-pointers and 56 blocked shots, and was second on the team in rebounding at 5.3 per game.

Seniors Paige Kolbeck, Ashley O’Neil and Kamryn Schueller return, along with juniors Tanaya Schillinger, Abby Oertel, Maria Schoenfuss, Makenna Leonhardt, Gracie Haulke and Emily Hughes.

Schillinger averaged 5.6 points and 2.5 rebounds per game last year, while Schueller chipped in 3.2 points and 2.2 boards per game for the Tigers.

“Every season is different, every group of kids is different,” Christopherson said. “We’ve been slowly and steadily building. I believe when we took over we were finishing about fifth in the conference. The last two years we finished second in the conference. We’re knocking on that door and we’re hoping to take one more step this year.

“The Marawood South is super tough again this year. If you take a look at the teams, we’re the only team in the Marawood South that graduated a majority of our team from last year. We graduated four starters. I look at the teams that are coming back this year and I truly believe that on any given night, anybody can beat anybody. There are no off nights in the conference.”

2019-20 Stratford Girls Basketball Schedule Tue., Nov. 26 at Wausau Newman Catholic, 7:15 p.m. Tue., Dec. 3 at Tomah, 7:15 p.m. Fri., Dec. 6 PRENTICE, 5:45 p.m. Tue., Dec. 10 MARATHON, 7:15 p.m. Fri., Dec. 13 EDGAR, 7:15 p.m. Mon., Dec. 16 COLBY, 7:15 p.m. Fri., Dec. 20 at Athens, 7:15 p.m. Fri., Dec. 27 TBA at Bangor, 6 p.m. Sat., Dec. 28 TBA at Bangor, TBA Thur., Jan. 2 at Auburndale, 7:15 p.m. Tue., Jan. 7 at Wis. Rapids Assumption, 7:15 p.m. Fri., Jan. 10 ABBOTSFORD, 5:45 p.m. Thur., Jan. 16 at Edgar, 7:15 p.m. Tue., Jan. 21 WAUSAU NEWMAN CATHOLIC, 5:45 p.m. Fri., Jan. 24 at Phillips, 5:45 p.m. Mon., Jan. 27 WITTENBERG-BIRNAMWOOD, 7:15 p.m. Thur., Jan. 30 at Marathon, 7:15 p.m. Fri., Feb. 7 CHEQUAMEGON, 7:15 p.m. Tue., Feb. 11 AUBURNDALE, 7:15 p.m. Fri., Feb. 14 at Rib Lake, 7:15 p.m. Tue., Feb. 18 NEKOOSA, 7:15 p.m. Thur., Feb. 20 WIS. RAPIDS ASSUMPTION, 7:15 p.m. Tue., Feb. 25 WIAA Div. 4 regional quarterfinal, 7 p.m. Home games in CAPS, at Stratford High School

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